Self Deception and the Gift of Confession

April 16, 2015

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins

and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

I have heard these words from the first letter of John since I was eight years old.

        They began the rite of confession that started each Sunday’s communion service.

                As a child, I accepted the theological statement that all people sin,

                choosing selfishness over loving God and neighbor.

        But as I became a young adult, I began to question the concept of sin.

I didn’t feel particularly sinful: I wasn’t lying or cheating; I tried to help people when I could.

Wasn’t that good enough?

 

My thinking was similar to that some of the people in John’s community of early Christians.

        They had a spiritualized view of Jesus.

                They weren’t interested much in Jesus the man;

                 they wanted the Jesus who was divine and could lift them above their own circumstances.

        Since Jesus’ life didn’t matter much, their own behavior didn’t carry much weight. 

They believed in Jesus … wasn’t that good enough?

 

But the Christian life isn’t about being good enough—it is about seeing clearly.

        This letter from an elder in the community known as John tries to set the record straight.

        For some in John’s community were only seeing part of the story.

                They ‘walked in darkness,’ as John says, shining light only where they wished.

                They conveniently ignored teachings that challenged their selfish ways;

        They glossed over anything that didn’t fit with their agenda.

They lived in denial of their own faults and only saw what they wanted to see.

 

I think that most of us are skilled at this kind of selective vision.

        As a young person, I saw things in black and white.

         I had not yet learned much about the complexity of my motivations.

                I remember when a friend of mine from middle school was killed in a freak car accident.

                        She had never been a popular kid,

                                and I was incensed at the grief of some of my classmates,

                        who had never given her the time of day when she was living.

                I didn’t realize that some of my anger was actually about my own guilt;

        I hadn’t been in touch with her for several years either.

But instead of examining my own part carefully, I lashed out at others.

       

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

 

There are so many ways of deceiving oneself:

        Blaming others without examining your own part

                denying the reality of a situation because it is too scary to contemplate

        ignoring a fault because it is too painful to admit.

On top of that, most of us are so busy that we rarely have a chance to let the dust settle-

being distracted keeps us from seeing clearly.

 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins

and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

John identifies confession as a way out of self deception.

But how does this work?

How can we get beyond the rote repetition of words on a page, beyond our own denial,

to a living encounter with the One who can affect real change in our lives?

 

The answer to this question is that confession is first and foremost a form of prayer.

        But it is more than simply a prayer about our sins and how we are sorry for them.

                Confession is rooted in a relationship with the God who knows and loves us intimately.

                God has known us from our mother’s wombs and numbered the hairs on our heads.

        Confession is therefore less about telling God something that God needs to know

and more about letting God show us what we need to know.

 

In order to do this, we need to develop a trusting relationship

        with this God who knows every part of us and accepts us as we are.

                When we are in that safe place of God’s love and acceptance,

                then we are ready to see the places where we haven’t been our best selves.

        We are ready to stop the denial and to be honest with ourselves.

We can confess our sins, assured of forgiveness, and align our actions with who God is calling us to be.

 

That is why is it so beautiful that we celebrate Sophia’s baptism today.

        In Baptism, we begin that trusting relationship with God.

                Today Sophia has been made a child of God, marked with the cross of Christ forever.

                        There is nothing she can ever do that will separate her from God’s love.

               

For us who witness her baptism, this is a day to remember our own Baptisms

and that God has also chosen us.

        We can tap into that safe and loving place and look honestly at ourselves.

                God’s love can empower us to become more compassion toward ourselves and others

        God’s forgiveness can loosen our clenched fists and open our hands in generosity and blessing.

Remembering God’s steadfast love in Baptism helps overcome the self deception that keeps us stuck.

 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins

and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

We might be masters of deception and skilled at denial.

        But the time for shadows and selective vision is done.

                God has plans for us, to make of us towering examples of faithfulness, courage, and daring love.

        The transforming love God has given us is meant to be shared—and our world needs it.

Open yourself to the God’s light, let God clear your vision, and shape you into the person you were meant to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Sermon

 

Do you have a favorite joke? (got to be appropriate for church…)

 

How about these?

What do you call a fake noodle?  An impasta!

Why was the little strawberry crying?  because his parents were in a jam.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

 

Anyone out there got a joke?

 

Ok, why do you suppose we are telling jokes today?

In some churches, they call the second Sunday after Easter “Holy Hilarity” Sunday.

The idea is that God played a big joke on Satan.

The evil one thought he had won the day when Jesus died on the cross.

But what happened?

 Jesus rose again, and the joke was on Satan! 

 

Today in honor of Holy Hilarity Sunday, we are inviting the congregation to participate in a competition—

make up a caption for a funny photo of us doing a children sermon.

Forms are at the back, also on website—winner gets a free bouquet of flowers!!

And the fun of being a part of the big joke on Satan.

 

Want to hear my favorite joke?

A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot stand.  Know what he says?

“Make me one with everything.”

 

 

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